17 Things Overheard at an Admissions Conference

Toronto — As another conference ends, I wanted to share some random things I heard at the National Association for College Admission Counseling’s annual conference here. I remember:

The enrollment manager who said she’s seeing more and more applicants “regurgitating” her college’s marketing messages in their application essays.

The admissions dean who worried that according to performance reviews everyone on his staff “exceeds expectations.”

The college counselor who described the Common Application’s recent technological glitches as “a national scandal.”

The Common Application employee who said that, because of the recent technological glitches, he’d had “little sleep for the last six weeks.”

The admissions officer who thanked another Common Application employee for having “done a great job” of responding to her questions about the recent technological glitches.

The marketing consultant who used the verb “leverage” at least a dozen times in a 20-minute presentation on Web-based recruitment strategies.

The admissions dean who said, lovingly, “Student stupidity is limitless.”

People repeating a line (some sarcastically, some not) from Thomas Friedman’s keynote speech: “Average is over.”

The college counselor who said of this year’s big batch of early-decision applications: “I’m dead from doing them, and I have no pulse left.”

The admissions director who wondered aloud how to tell a younger colleague that she often “dresses inappropriately.”

The admissions dean who said she worried that the next generation of enrollment leaders would “think about data 95 percent of the time.”

The college counselor who urged her colleagues to stop using the terms “reach school,” “target school,” and “backup school.”

One attendee’s answer when asked to name the conference’s hottest topic: “China, China, China.”

The enrollment VP who said the pressures of the job had prompted him to consider a career change, because, he said, “maybe the sky is falling.”

The College Board’s president saying he wanted to make the new SAT “beautiful.”

The woman from a community-based organization whose voice cracked as she described college counselors who discouraged first-generation students from applying to less-than-prestigious colleges that were, nevertheless, their “dream schools.”

The vast exhibit hall, packed with vendors, the sight of which inspired a visitor to utter this phrase: “The admissions-industrial complex.”

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